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Caspar, the Friendly Ghost Town
by Jerry Juhl
Welcome to Caspar, the Friendly Ghost Town.
That's the big joke around town, and it's not surprising. A trip through the "central business district" shows a handful of cottages, an inn, a print shop, and a place that once was an art gallery and once was a gas station, but which is now neither one. For all of that, Caspar is a very exciting place these days. Caspar is a town trying to buy itself.
The village of Caspar sits on the California coast halfway between the tourist mecca of Mendocino and the town of Fort Bragg. Many motorists don't notice Caspar as they pass through. There is no way of knowing how many people live here, because there are no boundaries that define the community. There are, however, 125 post office boxes.
Once Caspar was a bustling little town, a company town, built and owned by the Caspar Lumber Company, with a sawmill at the mouth of Caspar Creek by the cove where ships could anchor. Those days are gone, and now the last remnants of corporate holdings are up for sale. These include a lovely beach, the Caspar Creek riparian area, a large undeveloped stretch of ocean headlands, and a total of nearly three hundred acres that comprises the heart of the village.
Casparites now realize they are in danger of losing their quiet rural village to developers. And so they have acted. A non-profit organization has been formed, calling itself the Caspar Community. Its goal is to buy the town, or at least to substantially influence the future.
By any measure Caspar is not a wealthy community. Raising the millions needed to save their town will take a lot of creative endeavor. And so far, it seems to be working.
Last year, the Caspar Community achieved it's first major victory when the California Conservancy secured a 1.8 million dollar appropriation from the state of California to purchase the beach and creek for public use. Once this land is in public ownership it will be administered by the Mendocino Land Trust.
And just last month, the Trust For Public Land, a nationally recognized conservation organization, announced that it has begun negotiations to option all of the rest of property.
Andrew Vesselinovitch of the TPL said his organization became interested in Caspar because of the dedicated and organized efforts of the community to help itself.
Meanwhile, the Caspar Community is entering its second year of community planning, envisioning the town the residents of the village wish for their future. Meridian Green, a member of the board of directors for the Community, has challenged the town to make a plan for the next one hundred years. That process is now in the works. So much for the ghost town image.
March 31, 1999
written by Jerry Juhl
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